It seems every mom I know finds some way to feel guilty about the time they spend or do not spend with their children. Many working moms agonize over the amount of time that they spend at the office instead of playing with their children. Even stay-at-home moms often feel guilty about taking a day away or accomplishing their own goals at home instead of spending the whole day face-to-face with their child.
Well, all moms might find it interesting to know that a new study has been released from the University of Maryland called "How Does The Amount Of Time Mothers Spend With Children Matter?" The study found that "the pressure to spend so much quality time with her children means all parents—working and stay-at-home—schedule both professional and housework around the children's activities to maximize this presumed critical time together—at the detriment to all parties' emotional well-being. To what end?" The results might surprise you.
In kids ages 3 to 11, the amount of hours a mom spends with them has little to no impact on their future academic and mental well-being. The researchers noted that for children in that age span, mothers spend an average of 11 to 30 hours every week with their kids or near their kids (accessible when needed). Once the kids turned into teenagers, the amount of mommy child time drops to between 11 to 20 hours each week. For adolescents, "more engaged maternal time was related to fewer delinquent behaviors, and engage time with parents together was related to better outcomes," according to the study.
But there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty if you can't spend every waking hour eye to eye with them.
What's the take-away here? Once your child is past the toddling stage, the healthiest thing for you and your entire family is just to do what makes you happy. If staying at home with your children puts you in the best state of mind to be a good parent, then that is what you should do. If you want to have time away from home to be your own person in the workforce, or if you need to work to financially support your family, then that is the very best thing that you can do.
This study frees up all parents from feeling guilty about time spent away from their children. Of course, our children need our loving presence in their lives. But there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty if you can't spend every waking hour eye to eye with them.
If you're giving your child so much of your time that you feel exhausted, spent, or otherwise unhappy, you're giving too much. Take some "me time" to show your child what self-care is. Model happiness for them by finding it for yourself.